What positive steps can we take? The energy that is now expended by well intentioned, freedom-seeking individuals on the destructive course of politics can be turned into powerful steps that will have a positive effect on the future. All are moral, right and just. None require aggressing. Consider the following...
The Affordable Care Act creates a new health insurance marketplace (the exchange). But because of the great uncertainty about what buyers will enter the market and who will buy what product, the law creates three vehicles to reduce insurance company risk.
Politicians and bureaucrats are notorious for manufacturing euphemisms -- clever but deceptive substitutes for what they really mean but don’t want to admit. That’s how the phrase “revenue enhancement” entered the vocabulary. Some of our courageous friends in government couldn’t bring themselves to say “tax hike.”
“It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future,” says a proverb often attributed to Yogi Berra. Imagine the world of freedom, or lack of it. Who could foresee the technologies that make our lives so rewarding and convenient? The same technologies have us all under the government’s giant microscope. Thankfully, the brave have turned the microscope around.
In the months since Edward Snowden revealed the nature and extent of the spying that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been perpetrating upon Americans and foreigners, some of the NSA's most troublesome behavior has not been a part of the public debate.
National Treasury Union President Colleen M. Kelly recently described the 2014 IRS budget allocation as “woefully inadequate.” But the agency has not proven itself to be an efficient steward of taxpayer dollars. Here are ten ways the IRS lost the trust of the American people.
It’s easy to be negative about the U.S. economy these days. Find a glint of silver, and folks come running to point out all of the dark clouds looming about. This, of course, is what we got last week when the monthly jobs report was released from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Folks pooh-poohed the number of jobs and whining that they’re not enough or that it’s less than a bunch of economists thought that it might be. But you know what? Stuff ’em.
Given how poorly states like California and Illinois have funded the pension funds for their own employees, one would think that this would stop dead in its tracks any plan to have the government assist in managing private sector funds too. The spate of recent activity, however, suggests otherwise.
Facts are easy. You can check facts. What supporters of the Affordable Care Act are doing, on the other hand, transcends factual bungling. It’s far more advanced: a warping of reality so debauched it looks like something out of a tale by H.P. Lovecraft.
The problem for NSA apologist is that when guys like Snowden disclose that the government conducts comprehensive surveillance in ways that would have made 1984’s O’Brien drool, it puts the entire progressive agenda in jeopardy.
The east coast and parts of the southern U.S. were to varying degrees paralyzed by blizzards a few weeks ago. The snow as expected rendered the roads treacherous, and in anticipation of slick streets, shoppers flocked to the grocery stores in advance.The rush into grocery stores, and its aftermath, offers worthwhile lessons in economics.First up, […]
The financial world is plodding along like a drunken sailor avoiding debt collectors by keeping no cash in his wallet. It’s not the kind of calm that’s going to last or end well. But the storm will have to wait until after the Olympics.What a game! We’ve never watched ice hockey closely before. But watching […]
“When they come for my gun, they will have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands,” is a common refrain I often hear from the Neo-Cons when there is a threat, credible or otherwise, that the U.S. government is going to take their firearms.And, when I hear this crazy talk, I agree with […]
The highest form of charity, argued the 12th-century Jewish philosopher Maimonides, is when the help given enables the receiver to become self-sufficient.But our systems of state charity — aka welfare — have too frequently had the opposite effect: They have actually created dependency. It is time to rethink the way we help people.I’m going to […]
In times of war and national emergency, it’s sometimes necessary to sacrifice civil liberties to secure vital gains in public safety. In those cases, we may have to accept a loss of privacy or freedom rather than invite mass slaughter of Americans.The National Security Agency’s domestic phone records collection is not one of those.Never have […]
President Obama crowed in his State of the Union speech about the economy, even mentioning “a rebounding housing market.” Maybe he was referring to friends in high places, like the seller of Penthouse One in New York, which just closed for $50.9 million, all cash. Millions of mere-mortal homeowners likely wanted to throw something at […]
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is acting in a bipartisan way to cover up the biggest single threat to the bipartisan political alliance that is stripping America of its wealth: the United States Congress.There is no question that the following policy is bipartisan. Democrats and Republicans in Congress are completely agreed that the following information […]
Recent difficulties with implementing the Affordable Care Act have increased opposition to the program. A majority of Americans now oppose it. Problems with the HealthCare.gov website are in all likelihood temporary. However, there are serious long-term problems, particularly considering long-term finance and labor supply issues. Given the mounting difficulties with and growing concerns about the […]
Amidst all the revelations about how the American people, many of whom are absolutely convinced they live in a free society, have their telephone calls, emails, website visits, and who knows what else under surveillance by their own government, let’s not forget the massive infringements on financial privacy that have gone on for decades.Consider, for […]
Image: ShutterstockBitInstant CEO Charlie Shrem, along with alleged co-conspirator Robert Faiella, was arrested by federal authorities last week for allegedly laundering more than $1 million worth of Bitcoins. This is a tiny amount compared to the largest drug-and-terrorism money laundering case ever. Yet when British bank HSBC was found guilty in 2012 of laundering billions, […]
Do you trust your doctor? Most patients assume their doctor is working in their best medical interests whenever he or she orders a diagnostic test or recommends a particular treatment. Customers might wonder whether an unscrupulous auto mechanic is being truthful when he recommends a brake job or a new transmission. But most patients trust […]
The exercise had an awesome name, inspired by the movies: “Quantum Dawn 2.”On July 18, scads of U.S. banks, stock exchanges and government agencies took part in a digital fire drill — a practice run in the event all of Wall Street came under massive cyberattack.This isn’t the first time banks have come under an […]
The faces of the Detroit bankruptcy are the thousands of pensioners whose promised benefits are suddenly part of the restructure negotiation. When Motown filed for Chapter 9 last July, the city had $11.5 billion in unsecured liabilities. The vast majority of this was pension and health care benefits owed to retired city employees.The images of […]
So you’ve maneuvered the Obamacare website, plugged in your top-secret information and found out how much you are forced to pay to avoid a fine.And for some of you, it turns out you qualify for a government subsidy — making the premium sound like a bargain. But signing on that line to accept the government’s […]
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”As the inequality gap grows, there is an ideological battle unfolding in the West.On the one hand, there are those who think government can fix things. It must do more, tax more, […]
On Feb. 7 the United States will once again reach its statutory debt limit, meaning it cannot legally borrow any more money. Since the obvious option of cutting spending to match the amount of revenue that the government collects is off the table for some inexplicable reason, Congress will have to pass a new, higher […]
The New York Times published an interminable article on health care recently. Plenty of facts — how scrupulous are these journalists! — but the article displayed absolutely no comprehension of the basics of cause and effect. I was left wondering about the whole point.The article details how the health care system rewards specialists to an […]
In all likelihood, Republican efforts to defund Obamacare are toast — and sooner rather than later. It appears to be a fantasy that a bill to defund would even make it to president Obama’s desk.
This straightforward reality has prompted many reasonable observers to ask why frustrated conservatives would bother risking a government shutdown over the affair. Suck it up and move on, they say — even if Obamacare is stupid or bad.
And they are being reasonable, but they’re also wrong.
Many people are beyond frustrated with Republicans right now. They just don’t get it. It seems to be inadequate for today’s Republicans simply to do the intransigent, useless thing. They have to do the thing that also “holds us hostage,” putting the whole government and its functions on the line in order to gratify their sense of ideological correctness. WHY??? Because they’re jerks, comes the answer. They’re mean people.
That’s a judgment that would make a lot more sense were it not the case that, every day, on a myriad of issues right and left, it’s the government that’s holding us hostage — hostage to one-time votes made in Congress for the usual farrago of not-so-idealistic reasons.
Here’s how it works: a bill comes up for a vote. Round after frenetic round of lobbying and whipping has pretty much guaranteed the outcome. The bill passes, but more importantly the funding for the bill passes, and no matter how much of a dog the law turns out to be, it stays funded.
Once one chunk of the budget is on the table, every chunk of the budget there’s a constituency to alter is on the table, conceptually speaking. Defunding anything occurs to us as a slippery slope — a slippery cliff. If you defund this, what’s to stop future crazy Members from trying to defund anything they don’t like?
What indeed? How else are bad laws to be disposed of? Repeal? Debates around repeal are the same debates: repealing a law that is a budget item is defunding it (and then taking its penniless body out back and hitting it with the shovel).
Our fear of a Congress consumed by efforts to defund disliked laws has inspired us to think that nothing should be defunded. In fact, we are so convinced that everything should be funded that we fear the only way to make good on our conviction is to always fund more than everything, a.k.a. increase the debt ceiling.
This is how, in our minds, the only way to make a law mortal becomes a mortal threat to democracy. But isn’t it a greater threat to democracy to insist that no law, once passed, can ever go off the books and out of the budget? Isn’t the ultimate threat to democracy an enforced vow that once one hapless collection of Members or another votes to spend money on something important, we have to pay for it forever?
Of course, sometimes a new Congress does come in and tweak things around. Sometimes a program here or there gets sliced or dropped. But that’s a poor reflection of what’s at stake when it comes to the federal budget and American democracy.
What matters is that sometimes realignments of power that reflect voters’ minds and real-world change inspire Members of Congress to oppose a (big) budgeted piece of legislation. And because of our paralyzing fear of “dysfunctional government” (I’ve got news for you, it’s already here), Washington is set up so that any effort to defund a significant piece of legislation will provoke a “shutdown showdown.”
And guess what: We actually have been to this rodeo before. Seventeen times! Sometimes over matters considerably more limited in their scope and heft than Obamacare. That’s why Michele Bachmann is saying stuff like this to Byron York:
This isn’t just another bill. This isn’t load limits on turnip trucks that we’re talking about. This is consequential. And I think the reason why you’ve come to this flash point is that this is an extremely consequential bill that will impact every American, and that’s why you have such passionate opinions.
Analogies are always risky, but: this is tantamount to a move to defund the war in Iraq. Either you think the budgeted legislation is horrible or you don’t. And if you think it is horrible (like, a truly inexcusable mistake with real, rotten, and lasting bad consequences) then you’re in dereliction of your political duties not to try to take the money away. And if the reason you’re given for why the money has to stay — why the legislation is immutable — is that we can’t risk a government shutdown, well, who’s the real hostage? Especially when — the ultimate howler — you’re simultaneously told that your efforts are even more ridiculous because there’s no way they could ever actually work?
This line of intimidation and guilt-tripping knows no party. It works like a charm when demonizing and discrediting any group of legislators who want to un-chisel a once-passed bill out of budgetary stone. But is the “mature, responsible” position to treat a piece of legislation like a prison you build around yourself and fund forever, even after your death?
Elected representatives from both parties ought to break the shackles of fear-soaked propriety more often. So what if, most of the time, their push to defund will be dead on arrival? Establishment types will realize that shutdowns aren’t the horror shows they dread. And Members of Congress will begin to understand that slavish devotion to party and budget orthodoxy serves neither their conscience nor their constituents.
The best way to shake up our calcified government and two-party system is for individual Members to band together ad hoc — or alone, if need be — to try applying the power of the purse to legislation they truly, madly, and deeply cannot abide.
And yes: if our reps can’t tell the difference between budgetary resistance born of expediency and scheming instead of a sense of prudence and principle, there’s a strong pro-democracy case for throwing them out of office at the first available chance.
– James Poulos
Article originally appeared here.